'Urquhart' is a typical ancient Orcadian/Pict name. It traditionally sprang from an ancient sea-faring tribe that settled at Cromarty, on the south side of the Firth, and gave it its name. William 'Urchard' (Gaelic translation), their first recorded ancestor, defended the Motte of Cromarty against the English in the service of Wallace. Prior to 1358, his son, Adam of Urchard, gained the hereditary Sheriffdom of Cromarty from the Earl of Ross.
Advantageous marriages greatly increased the Urquharts' influence in the 15th century. Alexander Urquhart, 7th Sheriff, married Beatrix Innes of Auchintoul, and had two sons, of whom the younger, John, founded he House of Craigfintry. Walter, the elder, was grandfather of Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, knighted by James VI. He married Helen, a daughter of Hugh, Earl of Ross, and fathered 25 sons. The eldest, Alexander, was granted lands in Ross-shire and Inverness-shire by King James V. His son, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, was famous as the translator of Rabelais, other literary works, and a 'fantasy' genealogy of the Urquhart family back to Adam and Eve. He was captured at the Battle of Worcester, and died unmarried about 1660.
Sir Thomas was succeeded by his brother, Sir Alexander, at whose death, the line passed to Urquhart of Craigfintry, in the person of John Urquhart of Craigston, great-grandson of the celebrated tutor of Cromarty. Upon the death of his grandson, Colonel James Urquhart, the chiefship passed to William Urquhart of Meldrum.
Recently, Kenneth Trist Urquhart was found heir male of the family by Lyon Court, and claims chiefship of the clan.
Interestingly, the Castle Urquhart fell into Clan Grant ownership, and was the scene of the last recorded use of the fiery cross in its defence. This castle was once a great Pict fortress, and has been under archeological examination for some time.